What is dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behaviour therapy, also known as DBT, is a talking therapy. It is a modified version of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), adapted to help those struggling with difficult and intense mental health conditions and emotions. It also generally involves more group therapy work than traditional CBT.

The word ‘dialectical’ means concerned with or acting through opposing forces. DBT works in a similar way, by promoting us to develop acceptance, as well as make behavioural changes. These two opposing forces work together to aid recovery and promote a healthier way of living.

It is an effective and evidence-based treatment that can help people suffering from mood disorders, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, personality disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other conditions.

The main goals of DBT include teaching people how to live in the present, develop positive ways to deal with stress, self-regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships.

How does DBT work?

DBT can be carried out in a one-to-one or group setting.

The main goal of DBT is to help people move towards living a healthy and fulfilling life, in a way that is unique to them. An important part of this is learning to identify, address and combat negative and disruptive thinking patterns and behaviours that get in the way of this goal.

There are four main strategies of DBT that include core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

Core mindfulness

Core mindfulness skills help us to stay in the moment and can act as a useful and non-judgemental distraction when in the midst of pain. This strategy promotes calmness and aids with emotional regulation and distress tolerance.

Distress tolerance 

Distress tolerance skills are incredibly important when in the middle of a crisis. Rather than focus on catastrophic thinking or other negative thought patterns, distress tolerance promotes acceptance.

Interpersonal effectiveness 

Interpersonal skills help us learn to listen and communicate more effectively. It can also teach the importance of dealing with challenging people, and the importance of implementing boundaries to respect ourselves and other people.

Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation skills help us to identify, name, and challenge the way we deal with our emotions. When we are able to recognise emotions, it allows us to deal with them in an accepting and non-judgemental way, navigating them in a healthier way.  It also helps us to identify our triggers, which can help avoid some situations, and focus on ones that produce healthier reactions.

Benefits of DBT can include:

  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Improves the relationship you have with yourself and others
  • Improves many aspects of health and wellbeing, not just mental illness
  • Helps overall quality of life
  • Decreases suicidal and self-harming behaviours and thoughts

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) at Nightingale Hospital London

At Nightingale Hospital, DBT can be accessed in an individual or group setting as part of an outpatientday patient or inpatient programme. We have several clinical psychologists with a breadth of experience in all mental health conditions to match your individual situation.

“When you have a problem and you drink, take drugs or gamble, the problem won’t go away. Stay and tackle the problem”